German: Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan
Text: Samuel Rodigast (1649-1708) Tune: Gastorius/Matt Merker
1 Whate'er my God ordains is right: his holy will abideth; I will be still, whate'er he doth, and follow where he guideth. He is my God; though dark my road, he holds me that I shall not fall: wherefore to him I leave it all.
2 Whate'er my God ordains is right: he never will deceive me; he leads me by the proper path; I know he will not leave me. I take, content, what he hath sent; his hand can turn my griefs away, and patiently I wait his day.
3 Whate'er my God ordains is right: though now this cup, in drinking, may bitter seem to my faint heart, I take it, all unshrinking. My God is true; each morn anew sweet comfort yet shall fill my heart, and pain and sorrow shall depart.
4. Whate’er my God ordains is right: He is my Light, my Life, Who can grant me nothing evil; I will surrender myself to him In joy and sorrow! The time will come When it shall openly appear How faithful is his intent.
5. Whate’er my God ordains is right: Though I must taste the cup That is bitter according to my delusion I do not let myself be afraid For nonetheless in the end I shall be delighted By sweet comfort at heart: Then all sorrows shall retreat.
6. Whate'er my God ordains is right: here shall my stand be taken; though sorrow, need, or death be mine, yet am I not forsaken. My Father's care is round me there; he holds me that I shall not fall: and so to him I leave it all. Tr. Catherine Winkworth
This Sunday I am juxtaposing Bach's use of the hymn text and tune with another by a popular contemporary Christian musician, Matt Merker. The text appealed very much to both Merker and Bach who used it several times in his cantatas, as we have seen, and also to contemporary Christian singers. Merker's tune has been sung and viewed by many on Youtube. Bach used the original tune in this cantata as a wedding text and sets each stanza without other poetry. It is a sober, but joyful, hymn for a wedding.
The traditional vow, "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health," etc. faces the issues of life's ups and downs squarely, although one could bet that many a bridal pair had not thought that such sorrows might come. None of us do.
All we can do, ever, is promise to build upon the Lord, as the soprano sings so beautifully in this cantata with the flute in movements 3, and trust in his grace. Stanza 4 is a strong confession that God will always have our best interests at heart. And even though we can’t know as we are going through a trial how it is going to end, we are taught in this stanza that we will understand it at the end. I am glad the young singers are rescuing the text and making it contemporary. It is a needed and sober statement on the life of faith.
In our Bible study group at church we have had conversations about how looking back we understand things better and why God led us one way or another. In fact, some of us have expressed gratitude that God did not answer our prayers the way we wanted, but seemed to refuse the request. Ultimately we could now see it was a gracious no, all for our best. "Then all sorrow shall retreat," when we understand that. We may not see it until we stand before Jesus. Many people have said that when they get to heaven they have one or another question to ask Jesus. Most of them are about the mystery of what happened in a life that still seems unresolved. As Paul says in his great love chapter, “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
We can look forward to that knowing, but for now what we have is faith “that God is holding us so we do not fall.” Amen.
This has become a popular contemporary Christian song. Matt Merker, a colleague of Keith Getty, has written a tune that many are using today. Merker grew up on Long Island, and went to Vanderbilt University to study music and religion. He later attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He composes in several styles but says on his website his favorite thing is leading congregations in song. He is on the staff at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington D. C. and has a position with Keith Getty's organization. As you may remember, Getty wrote “In Christ Alone.” (See HYMN 91) There are a couple other settings of the text by modern composers so the text seems to speak to the contemporary scene.
For more on the Rodigast tune see (HYMN 170). This tune clearly attracted Bach—and many others for its joyful sound. His Cantatas 98, 99, and 100 are based on it. It has been one of the classic hymns that is not quite so popular today. But it has been included in Lutheran hymnals for the past three hundred years. It will be interesting to see if the new tunes will bring it back.
LINKS Keith Getty/modern tune by Matt Merker https://youtu.be/z-yJ3xMVUDI
Sovreign Grace Congregational song
Merker tune sung by Jasmine Ruth Baluja
Redeemer of the Shoals Church
Cantata BWV 100 Netherlands Bach Society https://youtu.be/0oS4clt71dU
The libretto is all of the stanzas above.